When the USA announced their first home game for The Hex would be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, Colorado, they were looking for a game at altitude (and cold to throw off Costa Rica) to prepare for Mexico’s Estado Azteca and they were looking for a great home field
advantage. They got all that and whole lot more.
While some might have predicted snow in late March in the Rocky Mountains and perhaps that might not be the best place to play a soccer game, I humbly disagree. It’s a brilliant place to play a game, weather and all and the USMNT made the most of playing on their home turf, where they’ve been dominant in home qualifiers for well over a decade.
However, early in the second half with Costa Rica pressuring, the FIFA/CONCACAF match commissioner appeared to stop the game as the snow built on the field. However, the final decision fell to match referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador who listened to the players (at least, were
assuming that’s what happened), had the grounds crew shovel off the lines again, and continued play. There was significant debate about whether the game would be abandoned and restarted, or delayed and restarted later. With the weather probably not improving in the Denver area over the next few days, stopping the game after 55 minutes seemed the better option to trying again on Saturday or Sunday with both teams having games on Tuesday.
The USA, with a first half goal from new captain Clint Dempsey, was able to weather not only the storm but consistent pressure from Costa Rica. However as the field conditions deteriorated, so did the hopes of a Costa Rican comeback and the USMNT, complete with their makeshift backline, off the field drama and possible broken locker room rose above it all and got what they desperately needed: three points.
Now it’s on to Mexico to face the suddenly struggling El Tri, who dropped two points at Honduras after a Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez brace had them in front, 2-0. Now the USA sits second in the table with a 1 win, 1 loss record and three points, just one point behind Honduras and one
point ahead of Mexico. A win at Estadio Azteca would not only be historic, but it would put the USA significantly ahead of their rivals in The Hex standings.
Onto the match ratings…
Men/Women of the Match – The Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Grounds Crew (10) – Words cannot describe the effort that these people put out to make this game actually possible. From continually shoveling off boundary and penalty box lines to plowing of the field at halftime, the grounds crew survived the elements along with the players. There are even pictures of a [USMNT signed snow shovel ](hopefully a game used snow shovel) that should be prominently displayed underneath DSG Park.
GK Brad Guzan (7) – Wasn’t needed often to actually stop shots, but with the poor conditions he was required to come of his line and claim a number of crosses and back passes which he did beyond well in the blizzard. Came off his line and missed a corner once in the six and was saved by a correct offside flag in his first USA game in almost four years.
LB DaMarcus Beasley (9) – For a player that hasn’t played for the USMNT since in almost four years, at a position he only rarely features at, Beasley was outstanding. He defended well, was able to join in the attack and linked up well with the midfield.
CB Clarence Goodson (7) – Added a lot of stability in the backline and kept the defense organized. He was able to add the veteran presence that was sorely lacking in center defense against Honduras.
CB Omar Gonzalez (6) – With passing kind of a hit or miss thing on the ground, Gonzalez was called on to own the air and he did for a young player in such awful conditions.
RB Geoff Cameron (5) – Not a great day for Cameron, especially late in the game giving away some silly fouls. I think the conditions affected him the most on the defense but the US didn’t really have anywhere else to turn to so Cameron featured on the right, where he plays regularly for Stoke City.
CM Michael Bradley (6.5) – A quiet day for the big midfielder as his offense was pretty much negated from the start off the game. He hung back and let his holding midfield partner move up forward in the attack.
CM Jermaine Jones (5.5) – Had a sloppy second half and was rightly subbed off in the late stages. Received a yellow card mid way through the half and could have gotten worse from his forearm to a Costa Rican player, deep in his own corner.
LM Herculez Gomez (6) – Odd to see Herc lined up on the left hand side, not that the formation really meant anything after kickoff. Not a whole lot to say on the attack, but he provided excellent cover for Beaseley on the left more than once despite his more natural forward position.
AM Clint Dempsey (8) – Besides the goal, which was brilliant, Dempsey was consistently able to drive the attack forward, getting the ball to Jozy up front or on the flanks to his various midfield partners. Put the team on his back for 90 minutes once again.
RM Graham Zusi (5) – Consistently got into space and even more consistently put crosses out of bounds. Just like Cameron on the right, Zusi seemed to be the most affected by the conditions and never really found a rhythm to the game and was subbed off after 75 minutes.
ST Jozy Altidore (7.5) – I’ve been waiting for Jozy to have a game like this. He played as a lone striker as a legit target man and was able to hold the ball to help build up the attack at times. His shot from distance deflected straight to a wide open Dempsey for the winner. For the longest time Jozy has only affected games when he scores (which has been rare of late) but yesterday he was everywhere in the attacking third and if conditions were better, I'd bet he would have scored.
HC Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – It was a solid lineup from Klinsmann that preformed well despite mainly surviving the entire second half and generating little possession. I would have preferred some of the substitutions earlier, especially Zusi and Jones coming off, who both clearly spent most of the second half struggling. But it was his performance during the week leading up to the game that deserves praise as the veteran leaders
in the locker room (Dempsey, Bradley, Gomez) rallied behind their coach and went out and got three points.
SUB Eddie Johnson (6) – Got about 15 minutes to affect the game and his pace on the wing immediately caused problems for Costa Rica but ultimately the conditions stifled any chance of EJ changing the outcome.
SUB Maurice Edu (6) – Was able to provide some much needed fresh legs for the final stages as well as another big body in the back, but that was all he had time for.
SUB Kyle Beckerman (NA) – A stoppage time cameo for the RSL midfielder.